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Gamaliel's Desk
Friday, June 14, 2002
The Madness of Modern Music
Apparently a comment I made in last week’s newsletter has prompted a question from one of my students. He wanted to know how I could make the generalized statement that music that was 25 years old was godly music since this would clearly allow some of the early “Gospel Rock” songs into the category of godly music.

I apologize for any misunderstanding this statement caused. It is true that there are some unacceptable music styles that would fall within this time frame. It is also true that if we take away their rock beat and worldly looking singers, many of these songs pass rather well as spiritual songs today. Carnal fleshly songs, like carnal fleshly people can become spiritual if we dress them up properly.

This leads to the thorny problem of determining which music is spiritual and which is carnal. There are two ways to go about making this determination and I hope to help you find the path to spirituality through today’s column.

The first way is to make up a bunch of reasons why any given piece of modern music should be classified as worldly instead of spiritual. These include any or all of the following disqualifiers:

· The choice of worldly instruments instead of godly ones
· The use of worldly tunes or music styles like rock, punk, grunge, rock-a-billy, metal, rap, country-pop, or anything closely resembling a modern style.
· Any music that has a noticeable “beat” that excites the flesh
· Anything that appeals to teen-agers or people under the age of 30
· Anything that is too loud, rhythmic and upbeat
· Any music that is guilty by its association with worldly-looking singers that don’t fit our high spiritual standards of conduct, dress and grooming

This is by no means a comprehensive list of criteria but it is enough to give the serious Pharisee grounds for disqualifying a host of songs, genres and styles as being decidedly worldly and unspiritual.

However, this list is susceptible to hair-splitting arguments about the fine points of interpretation of each. For example, how “upbeat” is too “upbeat” to be spiritual. These arguments only lead to division and that is why I prefer the second, more effective criteria for assessing the spirituality and worldliness of modern music.

The simplest way to evaluate music for its spiritual content is to ask, “Does Gamaliel like it?” If it is a musical style that I prefer, then it is spiritual. If I don’t like it, then it is worldly. This eliminates much of the hair-splitting for it is clearly self-evident that I am a spiritual person with a high degree of discernment and that I would never tolerate a worldly music style. Therefore, my preference is the best guide.

So if you want to know if a particular piece of music is acceptable for worship or not, simply ask, “What would Gamaliel do?” As always, let the conscience of the most spiritual among us be our guide.

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:19, 20 (NIV)

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